There are a couple important things you need to know about Marlin Williams. First, she believes in the power of believing in yourself. And second, if an obvious path has not been developed yet, she will create one on her own, no matter how daunting or difficult that new path may seem.
After all, Marlin was working at a funeral home, then less than a year later she was a mainframe programmer for one of the largest computer companies in the world. But what is truly fascinating about her story is the fact that this transformation is by far the least impressive accomplishment she has made in her storied and celebrated career.
After attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Marlin was 25 years old and working as an aspiring mortician. Her future seemed set, a solid career path in the mortuary sciences. Secure. A dependable paycheck in an industry that wasn’t going to go away. But for Marlin, something was missing. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but kept an open mind. Then a friend told her about a new program being offered by Compuware Corporation - a 13-week intensive course in computer programming, designed for computer novices with a passion for a career change. She was intrigued - a quick online search showed computer programming jobs were in great demand. The town known for Motown and the Big Three auto companies was adding a new element to its mix - technology innovation.
Marlin sensed the landscape of the city was going to start changing dramatically, and thought the timing was right to become a part of this wave carrying the old rust-belt city into the future.
So she signed up for the program, and excelled. So much so that after the 13 weeks, she had become an expert in seven coding languages and emerged as a mainframe programmer. A few months later she developing and maintaining code for several of the automotive and banking companies based in southeast Michigan. More importantly, Marlin’s proficiency in coding, and her passion for encouraging others to join her in this growing field caught the eye of some of the executives at Compuware. As a lightning rod of energy, she was proving to be a pivotal recruiting tool for other programmers - especially for women and minorities, who are woefully under-represented in the field. So the executives asked Marlin to help, making her the company’s first Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. She embraced the role, becoming a pioneer in the emerging field of diversity in the technology industry. Later, she became the Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and spent the last two decades pressing for encouraging a broader representation of diversity around the technology table.
She has worked in several roles for Fortune 500 organizations, including as chief information officer, and has been a frequent speaker and media contributor. As the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the City of Detroit, Marlin and her team successfully developed the city’s first e-government initiative, and led the collaboration across ten unique agencies to support the technology and infrastructure required for Super Bowl XL. Most recently, Marlin is a technology entrepreneur, founding and leading several organizations that spearhead her passion for diversity, inclusion, and the power of re-careering in the technology sector.
Currently, Marlin serves asthe CEO of Diversity and Inclusion Solutions, LLC, and co-founder of Code Connect. Founded in 2013, Marlin established Sisters Code to ‘Awaken the Mature Geek’ by educating, empowering and enticing women ages 25–85 to explore the world of coding and technology. She is also the diversity and inclusion entrepreneur-in-residence for TechTown Detroit, a hub for technology and non-technology startups, working to bridge the racial and gender gap in technology entrepreneurship.
Marlin’s story is one of perseverance and hard work, against all odds. But it is also an inspiring insight into the power that each person has to determine their own destiny. Her insightful and thought-provoking presentations have wowed audiences from Microsoft Corporation and Techonomy, to TEDx and SXSW. She is sought-after by the media as well, contributing on a regular basis to MSNBC, Twitter, Diversity Woman, Tech Week, Tech Inclusion, Meeting of the Minds, Yes We Code and WDIV among others.
Finally, as if she doesn’t have enough oars in the water, Marlin also is on a journey to become a scotch expert…..launching a movement (or medica) dedicated to all things about that particular whiskey from the green hills of Scotland, call Scotchanista.